VANCOUVER – It’s been 483 long days since Andrei Markov last pulled on a Canadiens jersey. The wait is finally over.
The past year and a half hasn’t been easy for Markov, undergoing two ACL reconstruction surgeries, suffering unforeseen set backs and seeing his return date pushed back more times than he cares to remember. There aren’t many people who can imagine what the 33-year-old has gone through over the past two seasons, but there’s one Hab in particular who knows exactly how the Russian blue-liner is feeling.
After going under the knife last December, Josh Gorges spent the remainder of 2010-11 getting to know the All-Star defenseman better than ever in the Canadiens’ clinic. With the memory of his own return to action earlier this year still fresh in his mind, Gorges is looking forward to seeing his old rehab buddy put those grueling hours they spent together in the gym to good use.
“I don’t know what his status is yet or if it’s 100% that he’s going to be playing but if he is, that’s great,” shared Gorges. “That will be a great boost to everyone just to see him out playing. I’m sure he’ll be excited to finally get back out there and play alongside us. Hopefully that’s the case. It’ll be fun to see him out there.”
Markov has been practicing with contact for the past few weeks and finally received the green light from doctors to be placed on the active roster on Saturday morning. Still a game-time decision against the Canucks, the two-time All-Star will warm up with the team in Vancouver before deciding if he’s good to go.
“I don’t expect him to be back at his 100% best after this long of a break,” mentioned Gorges, who has averaged 22:27 ice time per game since returning from injury. “It takes some time for the timing of things to come back.”
The biggest challenge Gorges foresees for the star defenseman if he does suit up on Saturday night won’t have anything to do with playing through pain.
“I think it’s more mental. He just has to get out there and have a couple of shifts early, keep them short, keep them quick and get a feel for the puck and a feel for the timing,” he explained. “Probably the best thing would actually be to take a big hit to know that he can keep going and his knee will be fine. Mentally, he’ll overcome that obstacle and then he’ll be fine.”
The two formerly-injured blue-liners may not spend as much quality time together on the trainer’s table as they used to, but that hasn’t stopped them from keeping tabs on each others’ progress.
“We talk a lot. We got pretty close last year when we were both out and throughout this year I tried to keep up with how he’s doing and the struggles he was going through,” mentioned Gorges, who has also been helping Markov plan for his pending return. “We talked about the struggles I went through when I was coming back and how it feels to come back.
“Your knee feels good, but it’s not always 100% and it probably never will be,” he added. “To think that you’re going to come back and have no pain or swelling or anything like that isn’t going to happen. It’s a matter of being able to overcome that slight obstacle and just work through it. I think he’s ready to go. It will be really good to see.”
Shauna Denis is a writer for canadiens.com.SEE ALSO:
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